We are 2 games into the NFL rookie season for 2011 Heisman Trophy Winner, Robert Griffin III, and everyone is buzzing about this kid. I am fully aware that jumping the gun is a commonality in the sports media world and I try as hard as possible to not fall into the incredible hype that can surround these players but there is something about this dreadlocked, superhero-loving kid that has me dumbfounded.
In a Class of His Own: Well Not Entirely
I didn’t buy into the Andrew Luck hype coming into this season. Don’t get me wrong. I like the kid because he is smart, exceptionally athletic, and could be the next Peyton Manning (Literally, almost too uncanny). Luck struggled in week 1, but pulled off a victory against the Minnesota Vikings in week 2 in which he carried the team on his back. The kid rocks the Grizzly Adams beard and looks like a dumber version of Michael Phelps, but let’s be honest. This kid stayed at the illustrious Stanford an extra season even though his head coach left for greener pastures in the NFL, to finish up his academic commitments. He is kind of brilliant on and off the field. I like him, but does he have action figures in his locker. Nope.
Russell Wilson had the most under the radar hype heading into the 2012 campaign. The Seattle Seahawks sought out Aaron Rodgers understudy Matt Flynn from Green Bay after his impressive outing in 2011 against Detroit to close out the season. Flynn walked into training camp as the starter in many fans minds, but then the DangeRUSS Wilson earned the starting job. Wilson came out of Wisconsin after leading Bret Bielema’s Badgers to its second Rose Bowl appearance in as many years. Wilson, the Graduate Student transfer from NC State decided to pursue his education further in Madison, and yes many criticized him, me being included, but the kid made some fantastic plays and ended up not only on an NFL roster but as the starter. Wilson is a class-act. He is extremely talented being drafted in the MLB draft out of high school by the Orioles in the 41st round, but decided to go to College. He went to College. Got better on the gridiron and on the diamond. He was drafted in the 4th round by the Colorado Rockies in 2010. How many of you had to make the decision of telling your Major League Baseball employer that you have decided to pursue another career? Don’t worry I’ll wait for a response…. In the NFL. His long time girlfriend and screamer said yes, and they got married. The guy likes Johnny Drama, Turtle, and the gang from Entourage (According to Wikipedia. I don’t care about sources obviously). Russell Wilson is a huge draw from fans because he is being coached by Pete Carroll and he’s on a rebuilding team much like the hero in Washington. His Twitter name is the essence of cool (DangerussWilson). Did he cover up the Nike Swoosh on his official NFL warm-up because he happens to be affiliated with Levi’s? Nah.
Ryan Tannehill has a hot wife. Is that enough? I mean, really. Lauren Tannehill is a 10 among other 10’s. Ryan Tannehill is also pretty appealing in a completely different way. He came into the season as the odd man out behind Luck and Griffin. Widely accepted as the 3rd best QB going into the league after winning the job in Miami, Tannehill was under the spotlight earlier than his counterparts due to the HBO Sports production “Hard Knocks” highlighting South Beach this fall. Many forget that Tannehill was recruited as a QB, but played a lot of snaps at WR at Texas A & M before he earned the starting job in the middle of his Junior season. Tannehill even set Freshman receiving records for the Aggies. Tannehill seems like a confident, yet shy and very skilled QB, but it remains obvious that the guy just doesn’t have the kind of draw that the razzle-dazzle guys have. Tannehill’s career will be solely based on statistics instead of hype. Did he have a meme named after him in week 1? Don’t think so.
Brandon Weeden is a nice storyline out of Oklahoma State, and before. Weeden was a 2nd round draft pick out of high school by the New York Yankees in 2002. Yeah, 10 years ago. Weeden lost his pitching control and was shipped all over the place until eventually quitting baseball. He tried his luck at Oklahoma State and in a way hit a gold mine. By a gold mine, I mean he literally broke passing records for a single season, completions for a single season, as well as a few single game records. Weeden is 28 years old. His wife is pretty hot too. Weeden was expected to come into Cleveland and start over fellow Big 12 cohort Colt McCoy immediately. He did. He has been fairly impressive in a lose/lose situation. Cleveland is where players careers go to die unless they can get out, but this 2012 team has some very nice talent with fellow rookie RB Trent Richardson out of Alabama in the back-field and a young, talented receiving core. Yes, Weeden has recorded 4 INT’s to only 2 TD’s, but he is finding his receivers and Cleveland has found themselves in 2 straight games against teams that really should be better than the Browns. Weeden is a nice story and it’s tough to wish the man (not kid since he’s older than me. He was traded by the Yankees for Kevin Brown. Yeah, that Kevin Brown). What color are Brandon Weeden’s socks? I would say they don’t get blander than white, but the dude plays for the Browns. Use your imagination. Or don’t.
Robert Lee Griffin III. Born in Japan and named after his military father. He was your typical Army brat growing up, minus the part of being a freak athlete. Griffin was a world-class track athlete and changed his commitment status in high school to Baylor instead of Houston to follow head coach Art Briles. It didn’t hurt that Baylor’s track program was pretty decent as well. Griffin came out of nowhere in 2011 to win the Heisman Trophy. Coming out of nowhere. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t an impact player before his emergence in 2011. Griffin set freshman records in 2008 after earning the starting QB job at Baylor. An ACL injury sustained in 2009 sidelined Griffin and his numbers were decent, but not gaudy by any means in 2010. 2011 was his year. Coming into the season, Andrew Luck had all but won the Heisman and was a lock for the number 1 pick in the NFL draft. Only 1 of the 2 previous came to fruition and Griffin took the nation by storm with his colorful personality, and even more colorful socks.
Cam Newton has a million dollar smile. Robert Griffin III has a priceless diamond grin. Andrew Luck has a degree from Stanford with a Bachelors degree in Architectural Design. Griffin graduated with a Bachelors in Political Science in 2010, but was working on his Masters in Communication when he decided that it was a better decision to take the risk and enter the NFL. Ryan Tannehill played WR in college because he wasn’t able to get the starting QB job right away. Many believe that Griffin could have been in London this past Summer competing for some hardware on the track. Brandon Weeden was a late 20’something College Football Star. RGIII is the youngest player to ever start an NFL game and the youngest/first rookie to ever win the player of the week in his first game.
Hype is a word that is used for players coming into the professional ranks from the collegiate level. It speaks to expectations and possible/probable outcomes for players. Often times players live up to their hype. Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton (Thus far) have all lived up to the hype that was put before them. In Rivers and Newton’s case, that hasn’t translated into wins, but all the same, they have been great. Ryan Leaf, Tim Tebow (I’ll get to him more in a moment), Matt Leinert, Jason Campbell, Jamarcus Russell, and Vince Young are all on the other end of the spectrum. They each get put up on a pedestal and then end up sitting on the bench, jail, or go missing for a few days, then anoint the team that they are the back-up for as a “Dream Team.” QB hype in the NFL is nothing new and how players respond to that hype is constantly under the microscope and in discussion via the media.
Let’s Talk Hype and Comparisons to Currents:
Robert Griffin III has had a ton of hype. Tebowesque? Skip Bayless hasn’t considered renaming his children after him or anything yet, but the hype is there and with good reason. Let’s do 2 comparisons here. RGIII vs. Tebow and RGIII vs. Cam Newton. It’s all in good fun and hopefully I piss some Tebow strokers off, because I love nothing more than upsetting those who consider themselves super fans of a typical special teams/back-up player in the NFL.
RGIII vs. Tebow
Tim Tebow is a nice back-up to a servicable and improving QB in Mark Sanchez. Did I really just call Mark Sanchez a servicable QB? yes. Follow me here.
Compare these stats here from 2011:
QB 1: 3,398 Passing Yards, 20 TD, 13 INT, 24 Sacks
QB 2: 3,474 Passing Yards, 26 TD, 18 INT, 39 Sacks
QB 3: 3,303 Passing Yards, 18 TD, 14 INT, 23 Sacks
QB 4: 3,832 Passing Yards, 23 TD, 23 INT, 22 Sacks
QB1 Andy Dalton, QB3 Mike Vick, QB4 Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB2 Mark Sanchez
Even I talk about Vick like he’s one of the best in the league. Sanchez is frankly better with a worse WR core. Just look at Sanchez’s progression over the past 3 seasons. He’s improving. Not elite by any means, but he is getting better as his team gets worse.
Let’s talk about Tebow. Nah, nevermind.
We could easily compare Ryan Mallet to Russell Wilson. Nope.
How about David Carr and Tom Brady? Don’t think so.
We could always go with the incredible comparison between Dan Orlovsky and Drew Brees.
How about my personal favorite: Joe Webb and Aaron Rodgers. Dumb.
Let’s stop comparing a BACK-UP QB to starting QB’s.
If you are a little slow and can’t follow a valid argument, then here you go.
Robert Griffin III for all intensive purposes on the football field (WHICH IS WHAT I CARE ABOUT) is better than Tim Tebow. Hands down please.
Now let’s get into real comparisons.
RGIII vs. Cam Newton
This comparison is awesome. The past 2 Heisman Trophy Winners. Each with the anti-NFL QB style of pass first-run first. Did your head explode from that last statement. I know you’re still teeming with hatred after my Tim Tebow reality check a moment ago, but stay with me. Let’s look at each physically.
Cam Newton: 6’5, 245 LBS, 23 Years Old
RGIII: 6’2, 217 LBS, 22 Years Old
Newton’s bigger. Griffin is faster. Newton is stronger. Griffin throws harder. Next question.
Heisman Trophy Season Stats:
2010: Cam Newton: 180/280, 3,854 Passing Yards, 30 TD’s, 7 INT’s, 264 Rushes, 1473 Rushing Yards, 20 TD
2011: RGIII: 291/402, 4,293 Passing Yards, 37 TD’s, 6 INT’s, 179 Rushes, 699 Rushing Yards, 10 TD
Newton was a better runner. Griffin, a better passer.
Newton got into the NFL and had a star WR on what seemed like the tail end of his career. That wasn’t the case and Steve Smith doubled his previous year stats and more. Cam Newton revitalized Steve Smith and Steve Smith helped Cam break rookie records. It was a magical season in Carolina. Except in the win column.
The Redskins got started 1-1 with a big victory on the road in New Orleans, but fell to the St. Louis Rams in week 2. RGIII was the first rookie to ever win player of the week award honors in his inaugural game. Cam Newton broke essentially every rookie passing record in his first season.
Both have incredible hype. Cam Newton is a class act. Now. Robert Griffin III is a class act. Always has been.
Let’s be honest here. Cam Newton’s entire college career was a hoax. The kid should have never been allowed to enroll at Auburn. He should have been punished more harshly for stealing computers at Florida. His father very much so was paid for him to go to Auburn, and YES CAM KNEWTON ABOUT IT. That was corny.
We shouldn’t condemn Newton because of his fathers actions, but let’s look at this at face value. I find it nearly implausible to think that Cam had no idea what was going on with his father. I’m not delving into this any further, but what I will say is that Cam Newton’s character can be questioned.
RGIII has about the best character we could ask for. The kid grew up in a military family. He has incredible discipline. He is so loyal to his sponsors that he is willing to cover up the swoosh on his NFL gear. Instead of just crossing it out, he gets clever and writes “Heart” in its place. The NFL said no more of that. Griffin threw on a plain grey T-Shirt to cover it up in week 2. You say rebel or trouble-maker, I say class-act. Agree to disagree.
He is a lovable kid. He is having a blast. Showing up every day with that big smile, gap and all to the stadium each week.
Nothing against Cam Newton. He is a physical specimen and I still believe that he will have a nice NFL career. RGIII is Cam Newton, but better. He has a different mindset and type of class. He has as much fun out there as Cam, but there is just something about him. He has a sort of unprecedented moxy. There is no reason not to love the kid.
I’m not saying anoint Robert Griffin III the next Joe Namath or anything like that, but he is truly the hero that The NFL needs.